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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

A lot of fantasy baseball commissioners keep trying to make fantasy baseball more like real baseball.  Forget about it.  It isn’t going to happen.  Fantasy baseball is not real baseball so just live with it.

The Statistical Breakdown

The guys who first invented rotisserie baseball decided to make fantasy baseball 50% hitting and 50% pitching.  Hey, it worked for Strat-O-Matic so why not?  As opposed to their favorite dice game, however, they decided to completely ignore defense, probably because there wasn’t, and still isn’t, an easy way to determine defensive ability.

Yadier Molina, fantasy baseball

GREAT CATCH: But, Yadier Molina's defensive ability won't help you much in fantasy baseball.

If you believe the old adage that “pitching is 80% of the game,” then you’ll be disappointed in the realism of fantasy baseball, because it’s only 50% of the game on paper.  Moreover, defensive stars like Yadier Molina will continue to be under-valued as compared to real life baseball.

Live with it.

Fantasy Baseball is Not Moneyball

Billy Beane wouldn’t have had any advantage over you or me when it comes to fantasy baseball.  Walks don’t count for much in rotisserie formats, with the exception of being able to help your runs category.  Therefore, guys like Carlos Pena (101 walks, .225 average, .357 on-base) and Nick Swisher (95 walks, .260, .374) are going to be undervalued in the fantasy version of the game.

In most leagues, all a walk is is a situation where Pena (28 homeruns, 80 RBI) and Swisher (23 HR, 85 RBI), and Swisher’s hot wife, don’t add to their home run totals.

The Best Way to Draft Hitters

We know that not all of the 11 million who plays fantasy baseball are going to pore over loads of statistics and BA/BIP stats like we do at Fantasy Baseball Dugout.  Therefore, we can make it easy on you when it comes to drafting hitters.

Draft an equal balance of stolen bases and home runs. Stolen bases will get you runs scored and home runs will get you RBI’s and runs scored.  That’s why a 40/40 guy like Matt Kemp (ok 39/40 guy) are so valuable and deserve to be top picks.

Beware of the rare exceptions on stolen bases, however.  Guys like Eric Young (27 SB’s, 77 games, 198 AB’s) of the Rockies and Tony Campana (24 SB, 95 G, 143 AB) who get most of their stolen bases coming off the bench with limited playing time are not equals to guys who play every day like Alcides Escobar (25 SB).

Secondarily, consider batting average. With most managers playing the stolen base and home run strategy, the league winners will often come from the fantasy baseball managers who concentrate on the batting average category when drafting.

The Best Way to Draft Pitchers

Pitchers are inconsistent.  Pitchers are more prone to injury.

Sure, there are the guys like Doc Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw that you can count on this year, but many of them are statistically inconsistent based on one thing out of their control–LUCK.  That’s why pitchers usually get drafted in the middle rounds after the best hitters are gone.

Doug Fister, fantasy Baseball

MOTOWN SOUNDS good to Doug Fister who was 3-12 in Seattle last year before posting an 8-1 record in Detroit in 2011.

Predicting wins is difficult.  There’s too much luck involved.  Take a look at Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.  Fister pitched 216 innings last year with a 1.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP; some impressive numbers indeed.  Fister’s record: 11-13.  Now, take a look at teammate Matt Scherzer.  Scherzer twirled 195 innings and ended the season with a 4.43 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  Scherzer’s record: 15-9.

That’s why when it comes to picking pitchers you should draft based primarily on strikeouts and WHIP. These are the most consistent categories from year to year

Walks will get you into trouble.  I don’t care if you are pitching in Little League or at Coors Field.  Walks lead to higher WHIP.

That’s why we recommend that you draft pitchers based on their ability to get strike outs and maintain a solid WHIP.  Wins and ERA are too luck-based to factor into your decision as much.

The wild card category when it comes to pitching is saves.  Some managers decide to punt the saves category which never made any sense to me, because saves is the easiest category to win!

Just make sure that you have more closers on your roster than the other guys.  If you play in a National League-only, 10-team league, there are 1.6 closers per team.  Be the guy with 2 closers on your team or the best you can expect is 4 points in the saves category.  If you play in a 12-team mixed league, there are 2 1/2 closers available per team.  Be the guy who has 3 closers on his squad.

Summary of Draft Day Strategy

  • For hitters, draft stolen bases and home runs with equal balance.  The runs and RBI categories will follow.
  • Batting average is often the deciding factor so be cognizant of it with each pick.
  • For pitchers, draft strikeouts and WHIP.  Wins and ERA are too inconsistent and luck factors into these categories.  Draft K’s and WHIP and the wins and ERA will follow.
  • Always get more closers than your opponents to remain competitive in the saves category; its the easiest category to win!
  • When you attend a MLB game, NEVER EVER tell a player that he’s on your fantasy baseball team; he doesn’t care.
by BallparkBob
March, 2012

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